My name is Katie Engel, and I am a senior at Assumption High School in Davenport. This past year I had a very unique opportunity to move to Des Moines and work as a page in the Iowa Senate.
I found out about this opportunity last summer when I took part in the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State program. When I returned home from that camp I spoke to my parents and Assumption’s administration about the possibility of participating in the page program.
We all decided it was definitely worth applying for the program. After being accepted into the program in November, everything moved very quickly for me. By the first of the year I moved into my very first apartment with a roommate I had only met a few times.
Before we started our first day, we had many questions including, What do we even do? And, who are the other pages? The Sunday before the legislative session started, we had an orientation to get familiar with the Capitol building and with the other pages before all the senators and support staff started the next day.
During orientation we also met our boss, Jerry, the Sergeant at Arms. Jerry is a retired businessman who was in the Army during the Vietnam War and has been working at the Capitol for 20+ years. He is one of the most interesting and caring people I have ever had the honor of meeting. Jerry is one of hundreds in the cast of characters who help keep the Iowa Legislature in order.
The people I had the opportunity to meet were the best part of my job. Many of the senators and other adult staff are people that I now consider major mentors in my life. Many of the college-aged clerks gave me valuable advice and helped me to question things in ways that I had never expected. Lastly, the other pages became some of my closest friends who I still talk to every day.
My day-to-day life as a page consisted of many small jobs including everything from guiding guests around the building to grabbing a free cookie from downstairs for a senator. Some people may consider the jobs that we did pointless, but they actually helped things run smoothly. Aside from the small errands, we also got to sit in on many meetings and all the floor debates. As someone who plans to study political science in the coming years, I am grateful to have received so much hands-on experience and to have made so many connections in the field I plan to enter.
Being a page was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. Because of this, I was so sad that my time in Des Moines was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. We were informed on Sunday, March 15, that the next day would be our final day in the Senate. That Monday was bittersweet. We all knew that what was happening was for the best, but that did not negate the sadness we felt about the experience getting cut short. Nevertheless, I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to partake in such a wonderful program at such a young age. I know that it taught me so much and helped shape me for my future.